The University of Alaska Fairbanks announced on Friday that their men’s hockey and men’s and women’s basketball would be withdrawing from the 2020-2021 season in their respective conferences.
The school cited concerns about the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic as the reason for the decision. In the school’s press release, athletic director Keith Champagne said:
“We were all hoping that conditions would improve so that our teams could compete. For these team contact sports, he said, the safety risk proved too high. ”While we know our teams are disappointed about not being able to compete, our first job is to provide a safe training and competition environment. “This decision, while difficult, helps protect the health of our student athletes and paves the way for a successful return to play next season.”
UAF head coach Erik Largen voiced his displeasure with the decision via Twitter on Friday evening:
Disappointed by this decision without consultation from coaches, players and trainers. We have mitigation plans in place. We want to play! Let us compete! @Buccigross @chnews @USCHO https://t.co/edhBh3ZpM2— Erik Largen (@ErikLargen) December 12, 2020
The Nanooks had yet to begin their hockey season, with WCHA conference play not slated to start until 2021. Though league members have already cancelled a number of intraconference non-league series due to Covid protocol.
Unstated in the school’s release, though probably like also a major factor in the decision are the cost considerations of trying to undertake a season amidst the budgetary shortfalls caused by the pandemic.
As the school notes in their release, player scholarships will still be honored and players will not lose a year of eligibility this season per NCAA rules. But for the Nanooks, that may be little consolation, as this was to be their final season before eight members leave their current conference, leaving just the Nanooks, Alabama-Huntsville, and possibly Alaska-Anchorage if they manage to raise funds to save their program in the WCHA.
As for this season, Alaska Fairbanks becomes the 11th men’s team to officially cancel their season due to the pandemic.